I've been seeing Christmas commercials on television for a couple of weeks now, and Christmas advertising everywhere. Come on, people, can't you let us get through Hallowe'en first? Isn't life hectic enough, doesn't time already go by fast enough?
When our daughters were children, we had a yearly ritual. During the last week of November we'd make up a big calendar covering the first 24 days of December. We'd plan one getting-ready-for-Christmas thing to do together every day. Shopping trips, wrapping sessions, sending cards, baking, decorating one room at a time ... twenty-four days of fun, togetherness, and anticipation. The to-do for Christmas Eve was always "hang stockings, make cocoa, and watch 'White Christmas' " .
But now ... they're all adults, with jobs and lives of their own. The pre-Christmas calendar has become a list in my notebook, the decorating and baking are what I do in the evenings after work, the cards get done on my lunch hour at work. Shopping is done in one marathon trip through Metrotown, made only slightly bearable by the close proximity of my Mom's place; I shop till I can't stand another minute of crowds and noise, go up to her place to deposit bags and swill coffee, and get my second wind before heading back to the mall for round two.
For the record - I'm not shopping just for gifts. Most of my gift accumulating actually happens throughout the year, when I finish making someone's gift, or see something I can afford that I know someone would really enjoy. This trip is also when I pick up all the baking supplies, cards and stamps, extra groceries for the family get-together and Christmas dinner, whatever craft/knitting/sewing supplies I need, last-minute stocking-stuffers and thank-you gifts, and whatever else is on the regular shopping list for the next two or three weeks. It happens either the last weekend in November or the first weekend in December, and its ultimate purpose is to make sure I don't have to shop for anything else (except milk and fresh produce) until after Boxing Day. (It's also the first time I will buy mandarin oranges; to me, they're Christmas oranges, and I refuse to eat them before December. I'm just odd that way.)
And it's not just Christmas. It's Easter, Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparents' Day, Secretaries' Day, Bosses' Day ... I'm sure I've left some out. It's all the artificially created, overinflated "holidays" whose only real purpose these days is to be used by retailers to encourage / persuade / guilt-trip us into spending money on things. To convince us that overspending is the only way to show someone we appreciate them. To make us all believe that true love can be measured only by how many dollars we lay out.
What's the best present you ever received? I'd bet anything it wasn't the most expensive present you ever got, but the one that warmed your heart with how much love went into something that was truly, uniquely you - the one that made you realize how much the giver cared for you and thought about you.
So here's something to think about ... when you're shopping for Christmas gifts this year, are you thinking about how much to spend on each person? Or about how best to show them you love them, you listen to them, you pay attention to what they like or don't like? Do you want them to measure your love in dollars and cents, or in time and thought and caring?